Poor survival in patients following resection for early stage colorectal cancer is thought to be due in part to the presence of occult micrometastases at the time of surgery. The MUC2 mucin gene is highly expressed in the colon and associated colorectal tumors and may be a candidate marker for colorectal cancer micrometastases. We have used RT-PCR to detect expression of MUC2 mRNA transcripts in order to identify possible lymph node micrometastases in node negative (Stage I and II, or Dukes A and B) colorectal cancer patients. A total of 396 nodes (histologic stage NO) from 34 colon and nine rectal cancers were studied by RT-PCR analysis with nested primers for MUC2 (an average of 7.6 nodes per case). In the primary tumors, 42/43 (98.1%) were positive for MUC2 by RT-PCR. Evidence of the presence of MUC2 was demonstrated in nodes from 0 of 10 (0%) patients with Tis or T1, one of six (16.7%) from T2, 10 of 25 (40.0%) from T3, and one of two (50%) from T4 tumors. MUC2 RT-PCR was negative in six nodes from three patients with non-malignant colon disease and positive in histologically positive lymph nodes from six of six (100%) stage III colon cancers. In this study, using RT-PCR to detect the presence of MUC2 transcripts, we have found preliminary evidence for possible micrometastatic disease in approximately a third of histologically negative NO colorectal cancer patients. The increased presence of MUC2 expression also correlated with more advanced T stage. We conclude that MUC2 RT-PCR may be a sensitive and specific marker for occult micrometastases. This technique has the potential to identify a group of colorectal cancer patients at risk for early cancer recurrence.
|Number of pages
|Cancer Detection and Prevention
|Published - 2000
- Colon cancer